Steps from Lake Superior is Duluth, Minnesota's historic NorShor Theater.
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Chronology of a Controversy: the NorShor Debate, continued ...

Feedback, page 1: May and June, 2006
This page: July, 2006
Feedback, page 3: August and beyond, 2006


Nonprofit would give NorShor shot at success
(Eric) Ringsred has consistently demonstrated he is out of his league.
Commentary by Alan & Leanne Zeppa
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Jul. 2, 2006

As a preservationist, Eric Ringsred has certainly performed capably and admirably. All Duluthians owe him a large debt of gratitude. When it comes to the NorShor Theatre, however, Ringsred has consistently demonstrated he is out of his league in providing competent management of the facility. Neither does he seem to have the vision or the spark necessary to ignite public sentiment about renovating the building.

Some people might say all this is sour grapes on our part, and we do admit to harboring more than a little pique after reading Ringsred's comments in the News Tribune in May implying he was stringing the Zeppa Foundation along when we were negotiating over a possible sale of the NorShor last year. ("Missed chances," May 7.) In fact, it was partly as a result of those revelations that we pulled out of renewed and promising negotiations.

But we are even more perturbed with Ringsred's comments about how his "unhealthy inclination toward the local arts and entertainment scene has been cured," and statements he has made essentially blaming Duluthians for not supporting the NorShor over the years of his stewardship. Frankly, it suggests Donald Rumsfeld to us, always pointing the finger somewhere else, never at himself and his own failed practices and policies. Having thrown the arts community crumbs over the years, Ringsred now blames them for starving because they don't have money to buy the bakery, especially now that he has decided to convert it into a factory that makes the equivalent of civic rat poison.

But this is not intended as a polemic; rather, it's an offer and a challenge, both to Ringsred and to the people of Duluth. We propose to commit $250,000 of our personal money -- not foundation money -- to purchase the NorShor outright, which we will then turn over to a new nonprofit entity independent of either Ringsred or ourselves. Our understanding is that such a body is currently in the process of formation. This new entity will in turn be charged with coming up with a broad-based community plan devoted to the preservation, restoration and dedication of the NorShor to promote and enhance local arts and entertainment.

We further propose to commit the foundation that bears our name to provide a minimum of $50,000 annually (out of a budget of approximately $200,000 annually dedicated to supporting local and regional performing and visual arts) for a period of 10 years. The latter, of course, is in addition to any grants that might be given to various groups that actually perform in the theater.

Only $250,000? Surely the NorShor is worth more than that. Well, maybe it is. But while on the one hand we applaud Ringsred's efforts in keeping the dream of the NorShor alive for all these years, it is also not our desire to see anyone profit from the bad management and deferred maintenance that have brought that dream to the very brink of collapse. Ringsred has left a very big hole for any nonprofit to dig out from under. And frankly, our hope is that Ringsred will not accept any of the money we are offering, but will instead do the right thing, which is donating the NorShor to the new nonprofit that neither of us has any stake in, and leave our pledge as seed money for the greater effort the new group will need to begin. Nobody ever said that being a preservationist had to be profitable.

But what if, as Ringsred apparently believes, the people of Duluth cannot rise to this challenge and accomplish great things with the NorShor, as communities have with similar buildings in similar condition elsewhere? Well, like they say, fish or cut bait, and it's high time for Duluth to do one or the other. Hopefully, this offer and challenge will be taken up by all parties and a way will be found to achieve the goal of preserving the NorShor and restoring it to usefulness.

But if Ringsred believes that he should reap a more substantial profit from the NorShor and the relinquishing of the vision of his adult entertainment club engenders, well, then, more power to him. But if so, he should at the same time consider surrendering his sadly tarnished credentials as a preservationist working in the best interests of Duluth.

Alan and Leanne Zeppa of Duluth are trustees of the A.H. Zeppa Family Foundation.


... Up in Duluth for Wilco's show last Sunday, I found out there's a lot of hubbub nowadays over the defunct NorShor Theater, which is now being eyed as the site of a new strip club. Never mind the pooh-poohing of a topless bar in downtown Duluth, it's too bad one of the best music venues in the state can't be kept alive.

Source: Chris Riemenschneider, "Local Music Notes" columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Tues., July 6, 2006


Lawyer to Duluth: 'Lay off NorShor, or face malicious-prosecution lawsuit' (July 10, 2006) »


NorShor contortionist's act crosses line, police say
Adult Act: The club is cited for violating a new state law on adult entertainment.
By John Myers, Duluth News-Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Thur., July 11, 2006

Duluth police issued a citation Thursday night after watching a live contortionist on stage at the NorShor Theatre - an act the officer says violated a new state law on adult entertainment.

The citation was issued on the only recent night that adult entertainment was offered at the troubled historic theater.

"We're back to being just a bar for now," said Jim Gradishar, adult bookstore owner who also is managing the bar business in the NorShor building owned by Duluth physician Eric Ringsred.

Gradishar said he believed the Thursday night act did not violate the new state law prohibiting adult entertainment within 500 feet of any residence or 2,800 feet of any church or school. Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the law May 26.

The law is expected to be challenged in court.

"She wasn't stripping. . . . I turned my back for a minute and I heard the officer say, 'That's it,' and he started writing the ticket," Gradishar said of the contortionist. "None of my customers saw anything sexually explicit. . . . She had clothes on."

Gradishar described the contortionist as "a really flexible person. She could touch her heel to her forehead." Gradishar must appear in court to face the charge.

The citation was issued to Gradishar by city licensing officer Steve LaTour, who could not be reached for comment Monday. Duluth Police Chief Roger Waller confirmed the citation, saying the NorShor operation will not be "grandfathered" in to avoid the new state law.

"We had information that they were going to try something on Thursday night and, when officers arrived, that sure enough was the case," Waller said Monday. "They somehow had the impression the law doesn't apply to them. But it does."

Downtown businesses and city leaders have criticized the move by NorShor management to offer adult entertainment. Some have called on Ringsred to sell the property to a private, nonprofit foundation so it can become a quality venue for live music and an integral part of Old Downtown's nightlife.

The new state law allows municipalities to use their own adult entertainment ordinances. Duluth City Councilors on Monday approved an amendment to the city's ordinance that would allow the Club Saratoga to continue its strip shows at Canal Park. The amended city ordinance, however, still would not allow adult entertainment at the NorShor Theatre.


Commentary on the above ...
Source: the Duluth News-Tribune's moderated forum

We really don't need more yucky entertainment in this town. Let's clean it up and perhaps the gangs and ho's and other yucks won't want to be here.

Posted by: Betylu
7/11/2006 9:48 AM


We do not need another "adult entertainment club" in Duluth.

Posted by:
7/11/2006 11:03 AM


I would be stoked to see more performing contortionists in Duluth.

Posted by: Shaun
7/11/2006 11:45 AM


What makes people think they can tell a private owner what they can and cannot do with their own property. This applies to the smoking ban, and now the norshore. if you are an adult and want to spend your money at a bar with stippers you should be able to.

Posted by: sick of the gov.
7/11/2006 12:34 PM


If a contortionist in revealing attire, which nonetheless covers those body parts prohibited from public exhibition, is violating the city's ordinance, who else is in violation?

Are the Duluth Family Sauna and Yoshiko's Sauna next to be ticketed? Why, despite all the reporting, has the DNT not bothered to print a single passage from Stewart's new ordinance? I can't see how this can lead to anything but selective enforcement. When the city decides to draft a law specifically intended to allow behavior at one business but prohibit it at another, for no other reason than they like one of the businesses better than the other, we have to know as taxpayers that the city is going to be sued and they're going to lose.

There are very few people who want to see nude dancers at the Norshor. However, an ordinance that speaks more about how many feet such establishments need to be from residential, religious or pedestrian areas, rather than the actual behavior within the establishment that is prohibits, is something that should be reserved for the comprehensive plan and the zoning commission. This is purely a reactionary move that didn't allow Grandishar the opportunity to show whether strippers at the Norshor would be viable or not. Neither the Norshor or the Saratoga are in residential areas and the law is intended to be crafted so that it will be applied equally, not as an instrument to a very specific and selective end.

Posted by: Andrew
7/11/2006 12:45 PM


Just how low on the totem pole is the licensing officer? This is the same clown who was out looking for smokers after the smoking ban was forced down our throats. Quite a career he's got going.

Posted by:
7/11/2006 1:09 PM


the sign you see when coming into duluth should read; welcome to duluth, we are against everything. i'm glad i took my city pension and city paid health care out of duluth, and now spend it in a city where fun is still allowed.

Posted by: mike hunt
7/11/2006 2:48 PM


Did anyone actually see what the licensing officer found so offensive? I want to know what was so explicit. Besides, it sort of sounds deliberate. The whole thing. Like the stage was set to agitate the cops. How did they know to be there? How did they know that a contortionist was going to violate an adult entertainment law? The guy above makes a good point about the sign while entering. I haven't lived there in 10 years, but from what I hear NOTHING fun is legal anymore. It seems all the big city Yupsters came in and tried to change everything we loved about our home town. It's sad, really. We took pride in our dive bars. Our club Saratoga. Our nicotine habits. Now a small group of people dictate (from what I believe to be true) a much larger number of folks who really don't care about this stuff. What happened to you guys? It seems everyone is so scared to stand up and tell the bleeding heart, artsy types to shush and get back to LA, or Minneapolis, or wherever it is they come from. Duluth was charming and didn't need to be changed.

Posted by: David P
7/11/2006 3:02 PM


The licensing officer is a tool...I'm glad he has lifetime health benefits.

All he had to do was walk up one block to 1st street, then he could have arrested some real criminals.

Posted by:
7/11/2006 3:36 PM


People seem to forget that they have choices each time they spend thier hard erned dollars. If a business is successful it is due to the fact that people are willing to spend thier money at that particular business. If you really want to get the scum out of the city stop the number of people moving here to simply take advantage of the great benifits of our local welfare system.

Posted by: Simply Stated
7/11/2006 4:20 PM


Oh my Gawd! We need these people out on the streets stopping real crimes! Our city needs to get its head out of its as* and focus on REAL issues! I am so sick of my tax dollars paying for cops to sit around harassing these business owners over NOTHING! Get out there and do your job! We have so much REAL crime in this town, let's clean up the streets and let people decide what they want to see where they want to see it! Love my country, FEAR my goverment!!!!!

Posted by: Lynn
7/11/2006 6:12 PM


One has to admire the city of Duluth, it takes a lot of fortitude for the police department to assign an officer to sit in a building and watch a contortionist perform - waiting for them do do something "offensive". Just a thought, wouldn't it have been better to pay an officer to actually do police work ? Just a thought but, hasn't there been a couple of rapes in the downtown bar area very recently ? As far as I know there are still a lot of drug dealers and prostitutes hanging around the same general area also. One would think, in this time of the possibility of officers being laid off, the police administration would make an attempt to utilize their man power (and woman power) to actually catch criminals (perish the thought). Possibly police administration would say this is a necessary duty (watching contortionists) but, bottom line - if you are looking to keep officers - why not ATTEMPT to show you are actually utilizing officers in the most efficient manner possible ?

Posted by: not a strip club fan
7/12/2006 4:04 AM


Duluth has bigger problems than the Norshor.

Posted by: LIB Reader Online
7/12/2006 7:10 AM


I don't think down town needs more clubs period. It is full of crime already, why bring one more place to bring all the welfare,drug dealers in and more prostitues to work. I am not against dancers, but more attraction in a place that doesn't need it, doesn't help.

Posted by:
7/12/2006 8:07 AM


Let's work on the real crimes that are going on in Duluth--the recent rapes, drug dealings--gang activities. If people are showing up and paying money to see live entertainment--then that is what is wanted by them--If they dont show--the business will flounder and go under. I do not Gov't to tell me how to spend my entertainment dollars--Not pro either way--but sure am glad after years of the Toga being there--that they weren't shut down. Again--what do you think used to be down on canal park years ago. People didn't go to Grandma's to knit and crochet. Wake up Locals.

Posted by: Get a clue
7/12/2006 8:22 AM


Blog comments at

A contortionist.

Gradishar described the contortionist as "a really flexible person. She could touch her heel to her forehead." I kinda wanted to go to the NorShor Experience last night. Now I know what I missed. Has anyone out there gone to the New old NorShor yet?

Posted by Starfire on July 11, 2006 08:15 AM


I won't go until Ringsred stops being such a putz.

Posted by: cathyp | July 11, 2006 10:15 AM


My inner-libertarian is kinda angry at all this. Let Ringsred have his schlock.

Posted by: Xenolith | July 11, 2006 10:45 AM


About 11-12 years ago they had a stripper at the Saratoga who was a contortionist. I had to use my Kermit the Frog doll to demonstrate what she could do with her legs. To the tune of "Never knew a girl like you before" She would lay on the stage and then flip her legs up over her back and head and take dollars off the rail with her heels. It was impressive. And she was cute. But the next girl was someone I went to jr high and highschool with so I had to leave. Contortionist girl, not so creepy--girl you've known forever in a bad K-Mart bikini stripping to Warrant--VERY CREEPY.

Posted by: laurie | July 11, 2006 11:30 AM


Yes, I went there last night with Sara. We stopped in and were immediatley impressed by the plaster Marylin Monroe and Elvis statues. The woman behind the bar was very friendly and chatty and this creepy older guy really wanted us to stay but we just weren't ready for that yet.

Posted by: zoey | July 11, 2006 03:04 PM


Norshor's loss, Mighty Thomas Carnival's gain.

Posted by: PJ | July 11, 2006 08:02 PM


Kind of off-topic, but there was an article in Ashland's Daily Press today about how Ringsred & his family are moving to Bayfield to open a B&B ...

Posted by: Mary | July 13, 2006 10:27 AM


B&B? A Bar and Brothel?

Seriously I like Bayfield quite a bit and have spent my fair share of time in the area, another B&B in Bayfiled is like another mosquito in the Northwoods.

Posted by: edgeways | July 13, 2006 11:03 AM


I think a Bar & Brothel in Bayfield would get a lot of business--they could make it all nautical-themed, with lighthouses-as-phallic-symbols decor ...

Posted by: Mary | July 13, 2006 03:40 PM


NorShor Experience sues Duluth, State over bogus strip club laws (July 12, 2006) »


Our View: A twist of strip laws benefits some, not others, in Duluth
Source: Unsigned editorial, Duluth News-Tribune, July 12, 2006

Did you happen to catch the contortionist the other day? No, not the performer at the NorShor Theatre, who reportedly could touch the heel of her foot to the front of her head and whose act the city considered risque enough to cost the theater's operators a police citation.

That act was pretty good -- or so we heard -- but nothing compared to the contortionist show by the Duluth City Council on Monday. With the help of the city attorney's office, the council massaged an old city ordinance to trump a new state law that regulates where nudie clubs and other forms of live adult entertainment can be located.

Voting unanimously, councilors overrode the state measure (which was written to allow local laws to take precedence) by expanding a city ordinance governing where adult bookstores can be. The widened city measure now also covers the locations of adult businesses such as the 62-year-old Club Saratoga in Canal Park, which had been found to be in violation of the new state regulation.

Well, no more. The well-maintained and trouble-free strip club is in compliance with the new city law -- police officers and city engineering officials went out with tape measures before the council's vote to make sure. The club is, they said, outside the required 600 feet of churches, parks and schools; outside the necessary 400 feet of pedestrian plazas; and outside the required 600 feet of residential zones. Canal Park has residences, including apartments right next door, but no residential zones, a broader legal definition of a place where people live.

While the expanded city ordinance gives a green light to the well-liked Saratoga -- and here comes the contortionist trick -- it shines a red light on the proposed adult business at the NorShor. The thought of staging sleaze at the theater, one of Duluth's historic treasures, had not gone over well in the community. And a "pedestrian plaza" across the street from the NorShor puts the idea on the outs with the new city law. A tape measure could confirm that, too.

Duluth city officials may have been well within their rights to write -- or, in this case, rewrite -- a local ordinance to supersede a state measure; no business should be legislated out of existence, and the Saratoga deserved the exemption. But councilors may have ventured onto a dangerous dance floor by doing so in a way to favor a well-liked business while shutting the door on another one not nearly as popular, especially when adult entertainment purveyors are threatening to take the whole matter to court to challenge the state law.

Let's hope the contortionist act works better for the council than it did for the NorShor.


Duluth News-Tribune article on the famous NorShor Theater 'green roof' nesting ducks.

Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Jul. 15, 2006


Duluth News-Tribune article: 'NorShor takes fight to federal court,' part 1.

Duluth News-Tribune article: 'NorShor takes fight to federal court,' part 2.

Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Jul. 16, 2006


Duluth News-Tribune editorial on lawsuit against new strip club ordinance.

Source: Unsigned editorial, Duluth News-Tribune, Jul. 16, 2006


Offer for NorShor must be comedy act
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, Wed, Jul. 19, 2006

Consider this a note on tact to Alan and Leanne Zeppa in response to their July 2 commentary, "Nonprofit would give NorShor shot at success."

Call me crazy, but a buyer making a serious offer (and not the petulant, conniving offer made by the Zeppas in their commentary) to Eric Ringsred, asking him to donate his NorShor Theatre, probably shouldn't riddle the offer with accusations the seller is managerially "out of his league," lacks "vision or spark," and intends to make of the place a "factory that makes the equivalent of civic rat poison." Or that the seller has brought the "dream of the NorShor" (whatever that is) "to the very brink of collapse." Or that the seller underestimates civic resolve and is, to boot, a "sadly tarnished" preservationist in league with Donald Rumsfeld.

Ow. I think I just felt the price go from "free" to "lots." Who's the public relations guru here, Caligula?

Also, every time I tell a clerk at the new Zeppa Whole Foods Co-op that I'm going to pay for my Fair Trade CheeseNoggins out of my "personal money," not my "foundation money," she looks at me funny. Ditto when I put my crumpled bill in the collection plate at the new Zeppa Unitarian Church. I'm not even going to mention the new Zeppa Renegade Comedy Theater. (Wow. Is there humor just in a name?) Or Marshall School's new Zeppa Fregeau Auditorium.

The Zeppas admitted big "sour grapes" after earlier talks with Ringsred, then disingenuously denied now "polemic(izing)." Polemicizing? That's more low-balling. How about "slandering" and "whipping up public sentiment for a taking?"

Frankly, after due consideration, I doubt anything in the terms of the offer -- certainly nothing in its method -- is genuine.

Maybe Ringsred felt the same.

Tom Cox


Prurient entertainment is hardly adult behavior
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, Thur., Jul. 20, 2006

I'm surprised that whenever strip clubs or any other kind of buying or selling of nakedness comes up ("Strip clubs dance into court," July 16, as one example) it is referred to as "adult entertainment."

I'd guess that term was coined back when the average life span in America was about 45 years.

These days, doesn't it seem more like it should be called "sophomoric," "juvenile," "mature," "scripturally unsound," or simply "nakedness" entertainment? When we continue to speak of smoking, drinking and strip clubs as adult behavior, is that really the meaning we want for the word "adult?" The activity I most associate with nakedness consumption is skinny dipping. I think many adults, when confronted with cool water on a hot day in an isolated situation, at least think about it. Not as an adult activity, but in the spirit of returning to more carefree times of youth.

A while back, the News Tribune published an interesting story about women in nakedness and sex businesses in other countries. When an organization rescued women from that, the only work they found was grueling factory jobs, and some went back to the nakedness and sex business. Putting women into this kind of choice isn't indicative of a mature society.

I wish the News Tribune and its readers would consider using the words "adult entertainment" to mean mature, responsible entertainment and in that way rescue the word "adult" from meaning "juvenile."

Karen Moore


NorShor could be more
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, Mon., Jul. 24, 2006

The July 19 letter, "Offer for NorShor must be comedy act," which criticized Alan and Leanne Zeppa, was a fine example of how good people, motivated to invest millions in Duluth, can be driven from this community.

Why the Zeppas' desire to invest their personal or foundation money into the spiritual, cultural, educational, and physical health of Duluth would warrant such sarcastic criticism as by this letter writer is beyond me. Perhaps the writer wished to defend current NorShor owner Eric Ringsred and his drive to create a strip club in the center of downtown.

The vision for the NorShor that eluded the letter writer is one in which the center of Duluth is revived with a refurbished cultural center that could offer the very best theater, music and art possible. The region has an amazing amount of talented individuals poised to fulfill that vision once a venue emerges that's both smaller than the cavernous Duluth Entertainment Convention Center auditorium and larger than the Playground.

The May 8 News Tribune article, "The art of the possible," by Sarah Henning, described how other cities, similar to Duluth, already have revitalized city centers by investing in old theaters, buildings that are precious gems from a time before TV and computers.

Duluth doesn't need strip clubs. Nor does it need selfish, self-promoting behavior that stalls progress. Nor does it need more vitriol hurled at good people willing to invest in the community and brave enough to challenge others to help them do it.

What Duluth needs is cooperation and the willingness to grasp future possibilities.

Bill Payne


July 27, 2006: Some considered words on the NorShor, Duluth City Council shenanigans, the feminism of stripping, and so on, from "JB Jackson" on


Duluth has bigger problems than strip shows
Source: Duluth News-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, Sun., Jul. 30, 2006

Recently, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley chided the Chicago City Council for passing a measure to outlaw foie gras because he thought there were more important issues deserving of council attention ("The city that winked at Prohibition now bans foie gras, public smoking," July 25).

I wonder what Daley would say about the Duluth City Council's unanimous vote to save the Saratoga strip club from state legislation while the city's debt continues to balloon for retiree health care. And that's not even mentioning street repairs and other pressing issues in Duluth.

Perhaps Duluth's visitors bureau should run some ads in the Chicago newspapers for visitors to come to Duluth to enjoy the foie gras and strip shows here.

Ernest Petersen


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